poverty in switzerland
The media often refers to Switzerland as one of the wealthiest countries. It is a country that others view as a model for a liberal-market economy. Its human development index (HDI) ranking is second in the world.  Despite this, it still requires aid to support hundreds of thousands of residents struggling to make ends meet. In fact, the poverty rate grew from 7.5% in 2016 to 8.2% in 2017. Here is some information about poverty in Switzerland.

Poverty and Welfare in Switzerland

In 2020 (income 2019) about 8.5% of the Swiss population or 772,000 were poor. The Swiss poverty rate had decreased from 9.3% to 5.9%  from 2007 to 2013, but since 2014, it has been trending upward. People most affected include households in which no adult is working, single-family households with children and people who have no education beyond compulsory education. Age also factors into poverty in Switzerland. Those 18 and younger along with those who are 64 and older are more likely to struggle with poverty .

Most poor people qualify for Swiss welfare. Known as the “basket of goods,”  it is a monthly payment to provide for basic necessities. Basic needs include food and clothes, for which individuals will receive CHF1,000 ($961.70), as well as CHF1,000 for housing and CHF200 ($192.34) for health insurance as of 2020. Welfare recipients must find the cheapest housing and those 25 and under must live with their families. Welfare pays only for public transportation, not for a car. Persons who receive welfare may also have to meet with a budget advisor to help improve financial stability. As people earn more money, the government lowers their payments.  About half of the people on welfare stay on it for less than a year, 20% need one to years to get off welfare and eight percent need up to six years.

NGOs Fighting Poverty in Switzerland

Beyond the Swiss government, there are a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance in Switzerland. Caritas Switzerland is one of the oldest, and is working to “reduce poverty in half.” Caritas is a global organization, with the goal to reduce poverty globally as well as provide emergency relief and post-natural disaster reconstruction. Caritas emerged in Switzerland in 1901, working to provide aid for those who experience financial disadvantages such as single mothers, retirees and refugees. The NGO’s services in Switzerland include Caritas groceries for the poor, a Caritas “Culture Card” so poor people can attend cultural events and a debt advisory service.

A second major NGO supporting Switzerland’s poor is HEKS/EPER which, in 2019, ran 162 projects in 32 countries, including Switzerland. In Switzerland, HEKS/EPER is focusing on supporting asylum seekers, job integration and legal services. HEKS/EPER also created the project HEKS Wohnen, a program to assist those who may be socially disadvantaged, including those with addiction problems and mental illness, to find living quarters and successfully integrate into society.

Despite the uptick in Switzerland’s poverty rate, the support of NGOs such as HEKS/EPER, Caritas Switzerland and the government welfare reform programs provide aid and assistance to those living in the country. With these support systems in place, Switzerland should have the ability to reverse its higher poverty projections.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Switzerland
Switzerland is a great example of how addressing poverty and encouraging economic growth can lead to a multitude of positive outcomes. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Switzerland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Switzerland

  1. The cost of living in Switzerland has been historically high. The value of the franc increased when the country switched to a floating exchange rate in the 1970s. In addition, Bern, Zurich and Geneva, were ranked among the most expensive 15 cities in the world according to the 2016 Mercer Index.
  2. However, the net financial wealth of the average household in Switzerland is $128,415, compared to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments average of $90,570. The net adjusted disposable income for the average household sits at $36,378 compared to the OECD average of $30,563. Switzerland ranks third on the scale of the highest amount of disposable income in Europe.
  3. Overall poverty is low. Just 6.6 percent of the population lives in poverty and only 4.6 percent live in extreme poverty. The rate of poverty has been decreasing steadily since 2007.
  4. Health care in Switzerland has gained a reputation of its own. A combination of private, subsidized private and public health care systems have no wait-lists, boast highly qualified doctors, hospitals and medicals facilities with the best equipment seen around Europe. However, the universal health care system is not free, nor is it tax-based. The out of pocket payments and mandatory swiss health insurance premiums are pricey for the individual. Swiss health insurance is reported to cost around 10 percent of the average Swiss salary.
  5. Switzerland has a high-quality education system as well. The country comes in ninth place out of 65 countries in a survey of educational standards among 15-year-olds. Unlike most countries, Switzerland has a decentralized education system where the 26 cantons are primarily responsible for the system as opposed to the federal government. Education has a multilingual focus, which encourages international students and the option for public, private, bilingual, and international schools.
  6. The country has a life expectancy of 83 years old from birth, which is three years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. The life expectancy is high despite the slightly higher than average level of atmospheric pollutants that are damaging to the lungs. Reports measure the rate of pollutants at 14.5 micrograms per cubic meter, whereas the average is 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter.
  7. Switzerland ranks below average in civic engagement. The country has one of the lowest levels of voter turnout in the OECD at 49 percent. The gap between voters is large as well. Fifty-nine percent of the top 20 percent of the population participates, in comparison to 41 percent of the lowest 20 percent of the population. This is a wider gap compared to the OECD average.
  8. Crime continues to be on the decline. In fact, in 2017 crime fell by more than 6 percent. Burglaries are the most offenses in Switzerland, making up two-thirds of the reported criminal offenses. While burglary also decreased by 6 percent, police threats and cybercrime were reported to rise last year.
  9. Childcare has typically been expensive. As a result, a temporary programme has set out to increase the number of child care facilities in the country. This will increase the number of options parents have for childcare and lower the rate as supply and demand will encourage competition of lower prices.
  10. Overall, the Swiss are much more satisfied with their living conditions. The country scored a 7.5 out of 10 on the scale for satisfaction compared to the OECD average of 6.5.

These top 10 facts about the living conditions in Switzerland show how addressing poverty and encouraging economic growth has a positive domino effect on other aspects of life. Not only do people live better, but they feel happier and enjoy a closer sense of community. Addressing global poverty does much more than just save lives, it betters the individual, the country, the economy and their impact on the rest of the world.

– Mary Spindler 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Switzerland Swiss Poor Areas Poverty Rate

Poverty in Switzerland remains lower than many of its European neighbors. However, rates still affect a large part of the population. So, why are the Swiss poor? In the country, a lack of awareness about poverty combined with a high cost of living compounds the struggles felt by impoverished residents. Below are the leading facts about poverty in Switzerland.

Top Seven Facts about Poverty in Switzerland

1. One in 13 Swiss Residents Lives Below the Poverty Line.

Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. However, data shows that one in 13 residents of Switzerland are still living in poverty. This rate may come as a surprise to many, as Switzerland is often associated with economic stability. By comparison, an estimated one in five residents of Britain lives in poverty, while the average resident of Zurich makes 21 times more per hour than the average resident of Kiev, Ukraine. Switzerland’s poverty rate is significantly lower than nearby European nations, however, 6.6 percent of the Swiss population still lives in poverty.

2. The High Cost of Living Amplifies the Issue.

Residents of Switzerland must account for a high cost of living; food prices and the cost of housing make daily financial needs quite high. Mandatory private health insurance adds further expense. Recent reports show Zurich and Geneva as two of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living, with certain reports placing the cities above New York City. However, higher incomes in the cities typically offset this cost, with high purchasing power reported. As a result, Zurich and Geneva rank second and third respectively in terms of purchasing power (surpassed only by Luxembourg.)

3. The Poverty Line is Set to Incorporate the Cost of Living.

In order to account for the high cost of living in Switzerland, the poverty rate has been set to incorporate the financial demands of living in the country. For a single person, the poverty line is set as making less than 2,200 francs per month (equal to slightly more than $2,200 in the U.S.) A couple living with two children is considered below the poverty line if earning less than 4,050 francs per month. Poverty in Switzerland is understood as the inability to afford the goods and social services necessary for a healthy and socially integrated life. The Swiss Conference for Social Statistics sets poverty line thresholds based upon meeting those needs.

4. Elderly, Immigrant and Single-Parent Populations are Especially Vulnerable.

Certain populations in Switzerland are especially vulnerable to poverty. These populations are much like the vulnerable populations in many countries, including families with only one parent, elderly residents, the unemployed, unskilled laborers and people living alone. Rates of poverty among these populations are significantly higher than other demographics. For example, those over the age of 60 are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty.

5. Trial and Error Approach to Solutions, Including Universal Basic Income.

As Switzerland seeks to address the levels of poverty that remain in the country, a referendum was voted on which would have paid each Swiss family a weekly guaranteed income. While the referendum failed in a vote this June, it represents an innovation in seeking solutions to poverty. Switzerland is the first country to consider a solution of this kind. Some consider the failure an important step, nonetheless, as it provides a platform for discussing the meaning of basic income.

6. Wages and Income Can Be Quite High in Relation to European Neighbors.

Incomes in Swiss cities are often quite high, with the average resident of Zurich earning $41 per hour or more. This level of earning is often what leads to the association of Switzerland with a lifestyle of security and contributes to offsetting high costs of living. However, for the 6.6% of Swiss residents who do live in poverty, keeping up with city living costs (dependent on similar wages) can lead to a daily struggle.

7. Poverty in Switzerland is Decreasing.

The good news for addressing poverty in Switzerland is a recent decrease in the number of those living in poverty. Since 2007, rates have decreased from 9.3% to 6.6%.

Assessing poverty in Switzerland demonstrates the importance of not allowing a minority impoverished population to go overlooked. The country’s innovative and consistent efforts to address poverty represent a democratic model for the discussion surrounding poverty in developed nations.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Flickr